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Experimenting with “Take Control of Pages” Pre-book on Leanpub

After years of fielding customer requests for “Take Control of Pages,” we are excited to bring you a “pre-book” about Pages, Apple’s word processing app. This pre-book brings you over 100 pages of fully edited text about Pages 5 on the Mac, as well as the current iOS and iCloud versions of Pages. We plan to release frequent updates for those who buy the pre-book through the Leanpub service; the final ebook will be available normally on the Take Control site and will be a free update to everyone who purchases now for $15. The 30 percent discount for TidBITS members applies; visit the Member Benefits page to follow the necessary

Why this new approach? And why aren’t we streaming it chapter-by-chapter as we’ve done with several other titles? Let me explain!

Creating a book that helps the reader “take control” of a full-featured word processor like Pages is an ambitious project that would take even our agile Take Control crew a number of months to draft, edit, and publish, and that’s if the software itself didn’t change during that time. But Apple has said that Pages 5 will see notable enhancements in 2014, and Pages for iCloud is still officially in beta. That uncertainty makes “Take Control of Pages” unsuitable for streaming in TidBITS, and it also means that, were we to put off writing until Apple wraps up Pages 5, Pages 6 might come out before we finished!

So, with author Michael E. Cohen, we’ve devised this “pre-book” approach in order to bring you up to speed with Pages 5 and the current iOS and iCloud versions, even as they evolve. For this project, we’re working closely with our friends at Leanpub, because the Leanpub service was designed for frequent updates, which we expect to put out every few weeks. All of these updates will be free to owners of the pre-book and will be easy to identify in the book.

What’s a “pre-book”? It’s the first chunk of a long book, composed carefully as part of a full outline, and pored over by a pair of editors who have checked for everything from technical accuracy to tone, from clarity to comma placement. When you buy the “Take Control of Pages” pre-book from Leanpub, you can download PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket versions; these look much like those for any standard Take Control title except that you’ll access them and get updates from Leanpub rather than the Take Control Web site. Once all the content is in place and we believe Apple’s pace of development has slowed (later in 2014), we’ll publish the ebook just like any other Take Control
title — remember, it will be a free update for owners of the pre-book — and you’ll be able to add it to your Take Control library.

So what’s in the “Take Control of Pages” pre-book? Right now, it takes a “Find My Feature” approach, revealing the locations of the tools in Pages and providing fundamental advice on using them:

  • Get Started: This quick chapter covers how to install Pages on a Mac (Pages 5 requires OS X 10.9 Mavericks) and in iOS, and how to access it on the iCloud Web site.

  • Get to Know the Interface Landmarks: You’ll get the lay of the land in Pages — with regard to where Apple has put key interface elements — whether on the Mac, in iOS, or on the iCloud Web site.

  • Choose Fonts: Build on the interface descriptions earlier as you apply character formatting — fonts, typefaces, color, baseline adjustments, and so forth. More important is Michael’s advice about these options if you’ll be working with Pages documents on more than one platform.

  • Set Paragraph Layouts: Learn to keep your paragraphs in line (or out of line). Michael reveals the mysteries of the horizontal ruler, explains tabs stops, discusses indents, and more.

  • Add Breaks, Numbers, and Notes: Still building on the basics laid down earlier, you’ll discover how to add special elements to documents: page breaks, page numbers, and footnotes.

  • Set Document and Section Layouts: Uncover the controls for setting margins, and learn about section formatting. If you want to put page numbers in your footers with lowercase Roman numerals for a document’s introduction, but switch to Arabic numerals (and a two-column layout) for the rest of your document, you need to read this topic!

  • Choose and Modify a Style: Whether you are new to styles or an old hand, this topic lays down the basics so that you can access the style tools in Pages and work efficiently.

  • Search, Replace, and Correct Text: Little about these Pages features will surprise (or impress) long-time word processor users, but this topic makes sure you can access the necessary commands.

All the above is in the pre-book now. Although our final outline may change, we’re planning the following chapters for future installments:

  • Manage Your Styles: There’s more to say about styles — including the new-to-Pages-5 “object styles” — such as how to rename styles, arrange them, and reuse them in other documents. With this chapter you will become a Pages style wiz.
  • Organize Your Work: Need a table of contents — or even two or three? This chapter will show you how to make them. It also dives more deeply into lists, sections, and footnotes and endnotes.

  • Learn Layout Possibilities: You’ll see how to use features like smart guides and vertical rulers to design flyers, brochures, certificates, and other richly formatted free-form documents.

  • Add All Sorts of Objects: Add pictures, charts, tables, shapes — even videos! — to documents, and customize them consistently. Whether you want to add the occasional image to a text-heavy document or produce richly illustrated posters, greeting cards, or reports, this chapter will shine a light on Pages’ rich graphical environment.

  • Try Templates: Pages comes with an assortment of templates, but what are they good for? Quite a lot, really, including letters, reports, envelopes, cards, and invoices. But why stop there? This chapter will also explain how to make your own templates.

  • Be a Collaborator: You’ll learn how to share Pages documents with writers, editors, and reviewers, keep track of who said what (and why), and even collaborate in real time.

  • Import and Export Your Work: This important chapter will describe the best ways to bring material from other apps into Pages and how to export to another word processing format, a PDF, or even an iBooks-compatible ebook.

In the first few days, Leanpub has performed admirably, and “Take Control of Pages” quickly found itself on Leanpub’s bestseller lists, which was gratifying. The next step in the experiment will be seeing how smoothly the update process goes in a few weeks; we’ll be interested in hearing your feedback! And, of course, if there’s something you want to see in the book that’s not on our list, let us know.

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